verb (used with object)

to check or guide (a horse or other animal) by exerting pressure on a bridle bit by means of the reins.
to curb; restrain; control.

verb (used without object)

to obey the reins: a horse that reins well.
to rein a horse or other animal.


    draw rein, to curtail one's speed or progress; halt: The rider saw the snake and drew rein sharply.
    give rein to, to give complete freedom to; indulge freely: to give rein to one's imagination.Also give free rein to, give full rein to.

Origin of rein

1300–50; (noun) Middle English rene, reine, raine < Old French re(s)ne < Vulgar Latin *retina, noun derivative of Latin retinēre to hold back, retain; (v.) Middle English rainen, reinen, derivative of the noun
Related formsrein·less, adjectiveun·reined, adjective
Can be confusedrain reign rein

Synonyms for rein



plural noun

the kidneys.
the region of the kidneys, or the lower part of the back.
(especially in Biblical use) the seat of the feelings or affections, formerly identified with the kidneys.

Origin of reins

before 1000; Middle English reines, reenes < Old French reins; compare Old English (once) rēnys; both < Latin rēnēs kidneys, loins (plural); cf. renal Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for rein

Contemporary Examples of rein

Historical Examples of rein

  • He gathered in the rein until he had it six inches from the bit.


    W. A. Fraser

  • To use the one rein meant a crash into the rail, and surely death.


    W. A. Fraser

  • Then he wiped the rein with his coat tail and looked at it admiringly.


    W. A. Fraser

  • Throbbing with a grateful, craving allegiance, I seized the rein.

    The Cavalier

    George Washington Cable

  • The first thing that occurred to him was to free Mukhorty's leg from the rein.

    Master and Man

    Leo Tolstoy

British Dictionary definitions for rein



(often plural) one of a pair of long straps, usually connected together and made of leather, used to control a horse, running from the side of the bit or the headstall to the hand of the rider, driver, or trainer
a similar device used to control a very young child
any form or means of controlto take up the reins of government
the direction in which a rider turns (in phrases such as on a left (or right) rein, change the rein)
something that restrains, controls, or guides
give free rein or give a free rein to allow considerable freedom; remove restraints
keep a tight rein on to control carefully; limitwe have to keep a tight rein on expenditure
on a long rein with the reins held loosely so that the horse is relatively unconstrained
shorten the reins to take up the reins so that the distance between hand and bit is lessened, in order that the horse may be more collected


(tr) to check, restrain, hold back, or halt with or as if with reins
to control or guide (a horse) with a rein or reinsthey reined left
See also rein in

Word Origin for rein

C13: from Old French resne, from Latin retinēre to hold back, from re- + tenēre to hold; see restrain


See reign


pl n

archaic the kidneys or loins

Word Origin for reins

C14: from Old French, from Latin rēnēs the kidneys
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for rein

c.1300, "strap fastened to a bridle," from Old French rene, resne "reins, bridle strap, laces" (Modern French rêne), probably from Vulgar Latin *retina "a bond, check," back-formation from Latin retinere "hold back" (see retain). To give something free rein is originally of horses.


c.1300, from rein (n.). Figurative extension "put a check on" first recorded 1580s. Related: Reined; reining. To rein up "halt" (1550s) is from the way to make a horse stop by pulling up on the reins.



see rein (n.). Figurative sense "means of controlling; control, check, restraint" is from early 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

rein in Medicine




The kidneys, loins, or lower back.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with rein


see draw in the reins; free hand (rein) tight rein on.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.